Category Archives: Amos-Esther

Kentucky (part 1)

A/N: Remember this? Wrote part 2 first, finally got around to writing part 1.

The camp kids had managed to reprogram Amos’s ringtone, and Amos was not amused. That stupid Ke$ha song had been blaring for fifteen seconds before Amos figured out it was coming from his pocket. But he was distracted. Between herding the kids around the parking lot to their parents, yelling at Danny for picking his nose again, and wondering where the hell his fellow counselors were, Amos was in no mood to humor the pranksters who’d changed his ringtone and were undoubtedly calling him just to see his reaction.

Danny’s nose was bleeding now, and Amos swore to himself. He’d better get the kid a tissue before his mother flipped a shit and blamed it all on Amos. He dug around in his pockets for a tissue and his phone started ringing again. Fucking Ke$ha—if he had to listen to her sing about Mick Jagger for another second… Unknown number. Of course. He handed Danny a napkin and answered his phone.

“Hello?”

Instead of the twittering laughter of his campers, the voice on the other end said, “Turn around.” It was a girl’s voice, too old to be one of his kids.

Amos took a second to yell at the boys climbing the huge oak tree in the middle of the parking lot. “Who the hell is this?” He fumbled and dropped his roll call clipboard.

“Smooth. What are you carrying a clipboard for anyway? And that lanyard makes you look like twelve.”

He stooped to pick it up and stole a glance behind where he’d been standing. Nothing. “Fuck you. Who is this?” he demanded.

“One of your campers is bleeding, you know.”

“Yeah, no shit, I just handed him a napkin.”

She laughed. “I guess you didn’t see the kid who just stabbed a girl with a stick, huh?”

Frantic, Amos spun around, searching for his bleeding camper. “Where?”

“Never mind, she’s okay. I gave her some tissues.”

“Who the hell are you?”

“Aw, you don’t recognize my voice?” she asked. She made it sound cutesy, like he deserved to be berated. “I told you, turn around.”

“Well, I’m a little busy,” he said, waving Danny over to his parents.

“Just turn around.”

He swore under his breath. He didn’t have time for this.

“Come on, turn around.” She was teasing him now.

“Fine,” he said and turned around. He started scanning the area.

Que fácil…” she said softly.

Suddenly, everything clicked. The lilt of her Spanish accent washed over him in those short words. He lowered the phone slowly from his ear, his campers forgotten. There she was, standing by the diminishing pile of duffel bags and backpacks, the enigmatic girl who’d disappeared on him at the Charles de Gaulle airport three years ago. He walked towards her slowly, not quite sure he wasn’t hallucinating.

“Esther?”

She smiled. “Hello, Amos.”

The Alps (part 3)

The next morning, Esther’s fever had gone down, and she was well enough to walk around. She, Amos, Carine, and Bryan underwent the hike to the main road, where they hitched a ride to the nearest hospital. By that evening, they were back at the hostel with Esther’s arm in a cast.

Amos was less than pleased. She managed to be maddeningly elusive about who she was and where she came from. Since last night, his curiosity had warped into obsession. He had taken her word that Esther was indeed her name; he definitely couldn’t check her back pocket for her passport now. And European hospitals cared less about identification than American ones, probably because they didn’t need to know who to charge if the insurance company refused to pay, since there was no insurance company that needed to cover treatment costs in the first place. On top of the whole lack of clear identity, she spoke perfect French (much to the delight of Carine) and excellent Spanish, of which Amos knew enough to recognize her superiority in the language. When pressed, she admitted to knowing a bit of Japanese and Arabic, and he could only guess where she’d picked that up. Carine and Bryan loved her, as did pretty much everyone else in the hostel, but Amos couldn’t shake the feeling that she was hiding something from them all.

The next afternoon, Amos was reading Camus again, this time in his own room. At a knock on his door, he looked up to find Esther standing in the doorway. She was prettier than he’d first thought — slight figure but surprisingly strong, long dark hair, an easy smile, and an assertive confidence of personality, something Amos himself had and took pride in, although many people disliked him for it. Even her clothes — the standard organic t-shirt or tank top with quick-dry shorts that all REI-raised American backpackers wore — couldn’t dissuade him from the idea that she must be stylish, at least at home.

“Come in,” he said, gesturing for her to enter.

She obliged, sitting down in front of him on the bed. “Reading the scorned Camus translation, I see.”

“Yeah,” he answered. “I can’t learn an entire language just for a book that’s been translated anyway.”

She shrugged, leaning back on one hand with her cast resting on her stomach. “I read them in parallel, so I can’t really say.”

“In parallel?” he asked, shifting so that he sat cross-legged to give her more room.

“I read it in my English class and started the French version about three chapters behind, so I already knew what was going on in the story. More of Camus’s diction nuances come out in the original text.”

“You’re crazy,” he said with a little admiration.

She just smiled. “What are you up to this afternoon?”

“Just reading,” he answered. “You?”

“Nothing really,” she sighed. “I was going to join Natalie on a hike, but I’m still pretty drugged up and tired.”

“Well… take a nap,” he suggested, patting the pillow next to him.

Laughing, she plopped down next to him on her side, her broken arm free. She propped her head up with her good arm and leaned closer to read the page he was on. He watched her sly smile grow as her eyes scanned Camus’s words.

“What?” he asked.

“End of part one. You’re about to hit the good part,” she answered.

“Meaning…?”

“You’ll see.”

They read in silence, Amos pausing for her approval before turning the page. She nodded, but stopped him to point out a line at the bottom of the page.

“See that? The translation isn’t quite accurate — it sounds awkward, right? Mersault is actually a lot more eloquent in the original French.”

“Is he any less of an emotionless creep?”

She rolled her eyes and replied, “No, not really…”

Vindicated, he glanced at her right hand hovering over the page, and the arm in its cast. “It’s a good thing you’re left-handed,” he remarked.

She eyed him for a moment. “Who said I was left-handed?”

He turned towards her, frowning a little in disbelief. “You filled out paperwork yesterday with your left hand. It didn’t really look awkward.” When she didn’t say anything and kept reading instead, he tapped her with the book. “You’re not left-handed?”

“Who said I wasn’t?” she asked, grinning.

“What the hell!” he exclaimed, only feigning annoyance as she goaded him. “Are you left-handed or not?”

“I’m ambidextrous,” she laughed, “although right-handed originally.”

“Crazy weirdo,” he muttered, turning a page.

The quiet of the hostel settled over them as they read for a time. A few pages later, Amos opened his mouth to ask her a question, but she had fallen asleep. He smiled at how her fingers curled slightly on the pillow in front of her nose, and how she cradled her arm in its sling against her chest. Quietly, he unfolded the spare blanket at the foot of the bed and spread it over her gently. She shifted slightly, but didn’t wake.

Kentucky (part 2)

A/N: Yes, part 2 before part 1. “Kentucky” is arc 3 of 4.

Amos returned from the shower to find her sitting at his desk, the chair turned so her bare feet could rest on the windowsill. Her hair fell around her shoulders as she leaned on her knees, gazing out at the trees glowing in the late afternoon sunlight. He couldn’t help but smile to see her there, losing focus as she watched the wind push the trees back and forth.

He closed the door and she turned at the sound. She threw him a fleeting smile before going back to the view outside his window.

“How did you find me?” he asked, ducking into his closet in search of clean clothes.

He heard her push the chair back. “You’re not hard to find.”

Shaking his head, he peered out at her. “Somehow I don’t believe that.”

“Why not?” she challenged. She had gotten out of the chair and was now climbing onto his bed, where she settled herself cross-legged. “What’s so hard to believe?”

He frowned and took a moment to pull his boxers on underneath the towel wrapped around his waist. “I couldn’t find you,” he said. She didn’t flinch when he pulled the towel free and used it to dry his hair. He could’ve sworn she used to.

She smiled, pausing to examine a strand of hair that had fallen across her eyes. “Maybe you just didn’t know how.”

He threw the towel at her and disappeared into his closet again. “So tell me how,” he insisted.

“How to find me?” she called after him. He could tell without looking that she was folding his towel. “You have my phone number now,” she reminded him.

“Yeah,” he replied, arms elbow-deep in his laundry as he searched for his sweatpants. “That doesn’t explain how you found me.”

“I had your phone number,” she answered.

He emerged from his closet, halfway through pulling on his one pair of decently clean sweatpants. “But when you called it you were already standing behind me.” With a hop he pulled his pants up and landed heavily, nearly rattling his fan off the bookshelf.

At the clatter, she looked up from one of his books she’d been leafing through. Not a word… although he should have expected that. These two years almost let him forget just how aggravatingly elusive she could be. She alone controlled how much anyone knew about her, never volunteering anything.

“You annoying little bitch,” he muttered, half to himself, half in awe.

Setting his book aside, she straightened as if to get up. “I should slap you for that,” she threatened.

“But you won’t,” he said, crossing the room and opening his laptop. “Because you feel sorry for me… right?” His eyes met hers, a playful smile hiding just beneath his pleading expression.

Ignoring him, she looked away and stared out the window again. Outside, the sun was setting clouds on fire along the horizon. “Let’s go on an adventure,” she said abruptly, jumping off the bed.

“A what?” he asked.

“Or a walk.”

He looked down at himself. “I just put on sweatpants.”

“So?”

A smile. “You’re crazy.”

“You already knew that. Let’s go.”

The Alps (parts 1&2)

A/N: Part 1 revised from this. More on this story at the end.

Amos was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper when Carine’s voice interrupted the stillness that had settled over the hostel all afternoon.

“Amos! Help, please!” she called in her distinctive heavy French accent.

With a heavy thump, she kicked aside the door, supporting the limp weight of a girl between herself and another hostel guest, Bryan. Amos jumped up to meet them, quickly putting one arm under the girl’s legs and the other around her shoulders. He was strong — still in good shape, although soccer season had ended in February — and the girl wasn’t exactly heavy either. Carine and Bryan gave up her weight as Amos brought her to the couch.

“We found her on the side of the trail next to the rockslide we found yesterday,” explained Bryan, wiping his forehead. “Carine thinks she might have a broken arm.”

Carine was hovering over her, checking her pulse and breathing. “I wish I could remember what my sister said about broken bones,” she muttered. She slipped into a string of French words that Amos couldn’t recognize. “Someone get me a… what is it called… a periodical.”

Trying not to laugh, Amos asked, “They taught you ‘periodical’ but you never learned slang like ‘I dunno’? What kind of messed up education system did you grow up in?”

She threw him a sobering look. “Amos, get me a periodical.”

“A magazine,” he said, heading back to the kitchen in search of one. “What for?”

“I am going to use it as… une attelle,” she told him. “For… support?”

“A splint,” he called behind him. “I’ll find some bandages, too.”

“I’ll go call the hospital,” said Bryan.

Amos returned with some bandages and a heavy magazine. Carine took them from him and splinted the girl’s forearm by wrapping the magazine around her arm and bandaging around the whole thing. Amos helped by holding her arm in place as Carine worked. He looked over at the girl’s face, her hair plastered against her forehead with sweat despite the coolness indoors. Amos frowned and put a hand on her forehead when Carine was finished. “She’s burning up,” he said worriedly, as Bryan returned from down the hall.

“Bad news,” announced Bryan. “The nearest hospital is way out there. Even if we had a car, it’d be a bumpy ride to the main road — the ambulance doesn’t come out this far so we’d have to hike to the main road.”

Amos swore. “Why are we so far away?”

“Because we’re wilderness hippies who like being far removed from paved roads,” answered Bryan with his usual deadpan sarcasm.

Ignoring him, Amos bent over the girl and felt her forehead again. “Her fever’s pretty high. It’s getting dark, and I know I can’t carry her very far anyway.” He straightened and stood there indecisively for a moment. “Even if we carried her together, it’s too far. If we can get her fever down tonight, we can try tomorrow.” He shrugged at the other two and disappeared into the kitchen in search of a washcloth.

He found one quickly and dampened it with some warm water from the tap. He could hear Carine and Bryan talking softly in the living room. Bryan turned to him when Amos returned with the washcloth in hand.

“We could make something to carry her with,” he suggested. “With poles and blankets or something.”

Amos nodded slowly as he knelt next to the girl’s still form. He wiped her forehead gently. “Or, you know, she might wake up.”

—–

(part 2)

She was terribly quiet. That was his first impression of her — then again, what did he expect from a feverish, sleeping girl? But even in her sleep, Amos saw no sign of pain or discomfort in her still form under the blankets here in the first floor bedroom. His room was upstairs, but he had volunteered to stay downstairs to keep an eye on her for the night.

Bryan had lent him L’Etranger by Albert Camus two days ago upon learning that Amos had yet to read it. Carine, of course, scorned them both for not reading the original French version, but so far Amos saw nothing lacking in the translation. He sat at the bureau with the small desk light on, reading in the spotlight of pale yellow illumination, always with the bed in the corner of his eye. The girl’s small movements kept distracting him until finally he found himself simply watching her, the book open underneath one hand and his chin resting on the other.

He couldn’t quite place her nationality, not that it meant anything one way or another. She looked mostly European, although possibly part Hispanic or Latino judging from a particular rich tint in her hair and skin tone. It didn’t really matter; who knew where the people wandering the trail by this hostel came from? After all, Amos was part Chinese, part Welsh, part Russian-Slavic, a little French and Portuguese, and American by citizenship. Carine was probably mixed European but proudly French. Bryan was French Canadian, had been born in Quebec but raised in Vancouver, went to school in the States, had studied abroad this past spring in Madrid, and was now wandering through Europe until the end of summer vacation. There were two other Americans staying at the hostel, plus three German students, a middle-aged British couple, an Italian girl, and two Belgians who had been staying here for two months. Normally, Amos would only ask for the sake of polite conversation, but the complete lack of other information about this girl made him curious.

Glancing over his shoulder at the door, he flipped his book over to mark his place and got up to close it. Bryan had carried the girl’s backpack from the rockslide where they’d found her and it now rested at the foot of the bed. It looked small — she must travel extremely light. Looking at her still form again, he tapped his fingers against his other arm as he thought. Curiosity won out, and he knelt next to her backpack. A half-full water bottle in the side pocket… a Leatherman multi-tool clipped to the other side pocket with a few CLIF bars… nothing particularly revealing about any of that, although he took a moment to admire her Leatherman. He reached for the zipper on the outermost pocket, but suddenly he felt a pressure at the back of his neck.

Ne bouge pas.

Amos was temporarily startled by the low growl of her voice. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French –” he began, trying to turn towards her.

The pressure tightened. “Don’t move,” came the cold reply.

He heard her shift the blanket aside, and felt her put pressure against his lower back as well. Something told him if he tried to move, she might break his spine.

“Where am I?” she demanded. Her English sounded American.

“At a youth hostel in the French Alps,” he replied as calmly as he could.

“And why are you going through my backpack?”

He winced, but told the truth. “I was trying to find out who you are.”

Her weight shifted against him for a moment, and he heard her sharp intake of breath when she moved her wrist. He clenched his jaw and didn’t say anything.

“How long have I been here?” she asked. Her voice was losing its edge.

“Half a day,” he answered. “You’ve been feverish, and you probably broke your arm.”

She let go of him and sat back. Cautiously, he turned around to look at her. Her eyes were dark, dark brown pools watching him steadily in the dim light. She brushed aside her bangs with her good hand, the slightest hint of a smile lingering behind in her expression. She was pretty — maybe sixteen or seventeen, a little older than he’d guessed while she was asleep, and something about her confidence stuck with him.

“I didn’t open anything,” he tried to explain.

“I trust you,” she said.

A dubious look crossed his face for a moment. “You do?”

She smiled ever so slightly, like she was doing her best not to laugh. “My passport’s in my back pocket, which means you didn’t touch me while I was asleep.”

Trying to hide a smile, he straightened and moved the desk chair next to the bed. “I try to respect girls in their sleep.”

Now it was her turn to look skeptical. “Somehow I don’t get that vibe from you.”

“Bullshit,” he shot back. “What do you know about me?”

“Not a whole lot,” she admitted. “So, having gone through my backpack, what do you know about me?”

He almost flushed, but pointedly looked at the untouched zippered pockets. “Well, you don’t drink enough water while hiking; you have the Leatherman I almost bought except it doesn’t have a bottle opener — serious deal breaker right there; and you like carrot cake CLIF bars. Besides that, I figure you’re American, and you could probably use some painkillers right now… How’d I do?”

She shrugged. “I hate carrot cake CLIF bars, but I could use a metric ton of aspirin if you have that much.”

Laughing a little, he got up. “I’ll see what we’ve got.” He paused at the door. “I’m Amos, by the way.”

“Esther,” she replied, reaching over to shake his hand. She smiled. “Nice to meet you.”

A/N Continue reading →

An Alps Adventure

“Amos! Help, please!”

At the sound of Carine’s heavy French accent, Amos looked up from the kitchen table where he’d been reading the newspaper. The hostel had been quiet all afternoon, almost to the point of boredom after Carine left for a hike with a few other guests. Now though, he heard the urgency in her voice and jumped up to meet her.

With a heavy thump, Carine kicked aside the door, supporting the limp weight of a girl between herself and another hostel guest, Bryan. Amos went to them quickly, putting one arm under the girl’s legs and one arm around her shoulders. He was strong—even though soccer season had ended in February, he was still in good shape. Carine and Bryan gave up her weight as Amos gripped her firmly and brought her to the couch.

“We found her on the side of the trail next to the rock slide we saw yesterday,” explained Bryan, wiping his forehead. “Carine thinks she might have a broken arm.”

Carine was hovering over her, checking her pulse and breathing. “I wish I could remember what my sister said about broken bones…” she muttered, slipping into a string of French words that Amos couldn’t recognize. “Someone get me a… what do you call it… a periodical.”

Trying not to laugh, Amos asked, “They taught you ‘periodical’ but you never learned slang like ‘I dunno’? What the hell French education system?”

She threw him a sobering look. “Amos, get me a periodical.”

“A magazine,” he said, hopping over to the kitchen in search of a magazine. “What for?”

“I am going to use it as… une attelle,” she told him. “For… support?”

“A splint,” he called behind him. “I’ll find some bandages, too.”

“I’ll go call the hospital,” said Bryan, looking for the phone. “Anyone know what number to call?”

“Ask the manager,” suggested Amos, returning from a back room with some bandages and a heavy magazine.

Carine took them from him and splinted the girl’s forearm by wrapping the magazine around her arm and bandaging around the whole thing. Amos helped by holding her arm in place as Carine worked.

The girl’s breathing was shallow and her skin was looking clammy. Amos frowned, and put a hand on her forehead. “She’s burning up,” he said. “Where’s Bryan?”

“Over here,” called Bryan from another room. “The nearest hospital is way out there. Even if we had a car here, it’d be a bumpy ride to the main road. As it is, we’d have to hike out and get a ride or call an ambulance from there.”

“Holy shit,” exclaimed Amos. “Why the hell are we so far away?”

“Because we’re wilderness hippies who like being far removed from paved roads,” answered Bryan, coming back into the lounge.

Pulling his mouth to one side in thought, Amos felt her forehead again. “Her fever’s pretty high. It’s getting dark, and I know I can’t carry her very far anyway.”

“We could carry her together,” suggested Bryan as Amos headed for the kitchen in search of a damp towel. “We could probably make it.”

Carine shook her head. “It is too far. And Amos is right, her fever is bad. If we can get it down tonight, we can try to carry her tomorrow.”

“If we wait overnight, we could make something to carry her with,” called Amos from the kitchen. “You know, sheets and poles or something.”

“Good idea,” said Carine.

Amos reentered with a clean washcloth in hand. He bent over the girl’s still form and wiped her forehead gently. “Or, you know, she might wake up.”

A/N Continue reading →